Shakazhan Outtakes Part 1 by Dellani Oakes

Shakazhan frontOn a recent radio broadcast, I was chatting with my guests, Paula Rose Michelson and Stephen Brayton, about scenes they had to cut while editing. All authors have these scenes—those that were fun to write and read, but didn’t advance the plot. Those are sometimes hard to part with and an author has to put on their combat boots, march into the fray and hack and slash until they are eradicated.

Below is one such scene. While I really liked it, it didn’t really move the plot forward. In fact, there was an entire section that I removed or heavily rewrote because it held the story back. I hated to do it, but in rewrites, this scene, and the section following, were among the first to hit the editing room floor.

Before reading, in case you haven’t read Shakazhan yet, there are several sentient ships. I don’t mean just cognizant, I mean fully aware beings who cater to their crews by creating whatever they need. Want a bigger bed? The ship will provide it. Thirsty? What’s your favorite beverage? Need privacy? The ship will create a private room that only you can find. They are characters just as much as the humans and aliens are. Their names are Anvil, Hammer – her mate and Styx, their daughter.

The Kindred are another alien species who are highly advanced technologically and telepathically. This scene takes place on board one of the alien ships. Ariella is one of the Fellician warriors commonly called The Cats.

 

Matilda loved her unarmed combat, she also was fond of the bow, she wasn’t too good at moving as quietly as she would’ve liked, nor did she handle the Banderatta smoothly. The staff to her was unwieldy, but she was getting better at it. She found that she loved kick boxing and the blades seemed to sing to her.

“You have metal in your blood, that is why you hear the blades sing,” Ariella told her. “We will work together, you and I, until we can sing a duet.” She winked.

They trained tirelessly. When Matilda perfected the use of one blade, Ariella introduced her to a short fighting dagger which went in the left hand.

“Hold it carefully, away from your face.” She pointed to the hilt of the knife. “This is the fun part.” Pressing a gem on the hilt, she deployed a small blade in the handle of the knife which could be used even if the hands were raised above the head.

“Many times this has saved me in a battle. Some swords are also made this way, but it changes the balance and weight too much. I’ve one you may try, but I don’t like it. Each person is different.” She shrugged.

After a relatively short time, Matilda was also superior with the double blade technique. Ariella had one more surprise for her.

“Today, we incorporate your kick boxing to our fighting style. It is very similar to the ancient art of Kaboratta which is often a companion to the Banderatta. I’ll show you a basic exercise which you’ll practice until the weapons flow in your hands and your body moves like water. Some people study years to perfect this. We don’t have that kind of time. We begin!”

The movements were as complicated and intricate as a ballet. Ariella moved with the grace that only a giant feline can. The muscles did seem to flow like water. After her first demonstration, she taught Matilda the steps. It took a surprisingly short time for her to get the basic movements down, even the nuances of head and shoulder position came easily. Ariella purred with pleasure.

“It is as I suspected, Matilda, you’re born to this! Yes! That is just right. No, tilt your chin thus.” She moved Matilda’s chin slightly up and back. “That is in case I do this while you parry.” She slid in quickly, slashed empty handed, barely missing Matilda’s cheek with her extended claws.

“It is a shame you have no claws, Matilda. They come in very handy in battle.”

Matilda stopped moving, thinking for a minute. “You know what? I think with a little help, we can make some for me.” She grinned. “If anyone on this ship can make claws, it’s Weiss.” Lieutenant Weiss had been chosen by Hammer, Matilda called on him later in the day, telling him her idea and setting him the task of figuring out how to do it. She saw that glitter in his eyes that meant he had sunk his teeth into the problem. He would worry it like a dog with a bone until he found a solution.

Wil had become Caprilla’s star pupil. Where Matilda could make the blades sing and dance, Wil could make the staff wail and rock. From time to time, they’d work out together, her with her swords and he with the staff.

Caprilla and Ariella would stand to the side, grinning proudly, yelling commentary as the two sparred. “No, no, Wil! You leave your distaff side open! See, she got the blade in. If it had been sharp, you would be bleeding!”

“Matilda, move your chin! Ach, girl! No, swipe with your tail! Oh, I forget she hasn’t got one! Claws, Matilda, claws!”

Weiss had come through better than Matilda could’ve hoped. She had expected claws which would be non-retractable and had even practiced with this idea in mind. However, Weiss hadn’t been satisfied with that. He wanted something she could pull in when they were not needed.

“I used some of the Kindred’s technology. They make things from this liquid metal and can shape it any way they want. It kind of moves, see. It feels alive when you handle it. The Elder showed me this. Looks like bracelets, kind of heavy, but you get used to the weight. Works on the same principle as the ship. Tell it what you want.”

To demonstrate, he focused on the bracelet he wore. A triple bladed claw about eighteen inches long shot out. Each blade had a cruel, barbed hook on the end, meant to grab and rip. The other hand, he concentrated on it again and made a set of claws exactly like Ariella’s. A short pause, the blades on both hands retracted.

“You’ll be faster at it, you’re telepathic, I’m not. For me it is a conscious effort, for you, a thought will do. Try them.” He fastened the bracelets on her wrists.

They were heavy, throbbing, warm to the touch. They massaged her wrists, giving them added strength.

“They’re magnificent!” She pointed her wrist away from him, towards the emptiness of the cargo hold. A thought later, a perfect duplicate of talons curled from her wrist, looping up and out for a full seventeen inches of solid bone. They were too heavy, but she got the idea of the control measures needed.

“I think I could really learn to like these,” Matilda flashed her crooked grin.

“If only you had a tail, you would be perfect,” Ariella purred, trilling her ‘r’

 

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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